Here is a photo of a female Dungeoness Crab. They have a wider "tail" under their shell.
Fishing and Crabbing in Blunden Harbour
07/27/2010, Blunden Harbour/Sullivan Bay
John and I got up early to go fishing and to check the results of our crabbing contest. (We each got to put one crab pot out last night, wherever we wanted, and the winner would be the person with the most crabs in the pot.) We quietly departed in light fog and headed out to the entrance of Blunden Harbour, where it looked kind of fishy with rock islands, kelp, and birds. We trolled south to Coho Bay and the fish farm there, picking up on a nice rockfish. Then, we trolled north and picked up another good rockfish. Those two would make a nice dinner.
We called Change of Latitude on our portable VHF to check the range and we were able to talk, even thought there was an island between us. Then we headed back.
We dropped off the fish and fishing gear and headed out to check crab pots. John picked up two nice Dungeoness Crabs but they were both females. (It is illegal to keep females.) We let them go. It was a bit unusual, I thought, to find two females in a single pot and no males. Usually, the ratio is about 10 to 1 in favor of males. I realized, though, that the bay had a number of floats that we think belonged to the First Nation family that had a temporary house near the ruins of the older native settlement. I think they had probably culled most of the males in the harbour so that mainly females remained.
Then we went to pick up my pot. I had placed it where there was a bit more current. My thinking was that current spreads the scent of the dead fish we use for bait. Then, crabs from a wider area would follow the smell up current to the pot and be caught. I pulled up my pot and found about 15 crabs. Jackpot! Instead of pulling the crabs out, there were so many that we decided to check gender and sizes back at the boat where we had a measuring stick. (BC requires Dungeoness Crabs to be 6.5 inches across their backs at the widest point. )
I will place a photo of a male and female crab to illustrate the difference. In the end, I had two males that were keepers. We let all the females go.
We cleaned our fish and put them in the freezer while Debbie, Sarah, and Katie got a pot of salt water boiling in the galley. Once the water was getting hot, I showed John how to humanely kill the crabs and clean them. We popped them in the pot to boil for 5 minutes and then chill in an ice bath.
After cleaning up the deck from all of that adventure, John and I brought up Rubber Ducky with the davit and tied it down, making everything secure so we could hoist anchor and depart. Debbie showed John how to bring up the anchor on the foredeck and we were underway. We were headed to Sullivan Bay, a very unique marina in the Broughton Islands where everyone is VERY laid back and everyone has fun. It is all a bit quirky. We will post a few photos.
As we arrived at Sullivan Bay, we were greeted by a pod of White-sided Pacific Dolphins. They swam under our boat as we were entering the cove. They seemed like the perfect welcoming party to a very special place.
We tied up the boat and registered. We received two golf balls to a 5 pm golf match, being held at the "Sullivan Bay Golf Course." This was a floating "green" with a flag in it, anchored about 100 yards out in the bay. If you put your ball on the green (actually inside the net of this floating hole) you would get a free night's moorage. About 4:30 we walked over to see how this would go. John was our designated golfer. He hit both balls well and almost put it in the green on each try. Others tried as well but no one put it in(on) the green.
We strolled around the marina and saw some of the unique things they have there. Then we went back to the boat where I fixed margaritas for everyone. Afterwards, we went over for a rib dinner at the restaurant, the special that night. It was pretty good.
We then headed back to the boat where Katie, John, and Sarah played a vigorous game of Uno. We went to bed after another great day.
Sarah/Foggy am, Sunny pm
07/26/2010, Blunden Harbour
Today was an exciting day, lots of adventure. After Dad got a picture with the world's largest burl, we were all set to head off to Blunden Harbour. On the way to our destination we saw humpback whales, dolphins and rhinoceros auklets, which Katie and I have started referring to as "rhino birds." The birds are called rhinoceros auklets because they grow a rhinoceros like horn on their beaks during the mating season. There has been much discord over the nickname Katie and I have chosen for the birds. Apparently this is not the correct name (Cerorhinca monocerata), and it shows disrespect to the birds, even though Katie and I are avid bird lovers. However, it has led to us randomly shouting out "RHINO BIRD!" just to get a laugh. Katie also looked up (on Dad's ipad) the call of the rhino bird and it sounds very much like a cow lowing in the field. This has led to much noise in the main cabin as everyone is trying to give their best rhino bird impression. Anyway...we arrived at Blunden Harbour in the early afternoon just in time to sit down to salami and cheese sandwiches. I always love having deli sandwiches on the boat. It's just a great time for everyone to get together and talk about plans for the rest of the day.
Shortly after lunch, Katie, John and I decided to go exploring in the dinghy. Katie gave us an ecological and historical summary of the area, showing us the structural remains of lodges that the Native people had lived in many, many years ago. She also showed us the midden beach near the lodge remains. Midden beaches are "beaches" that appear as white beaches from a distance, but upon closer look are actually white because they are covered with the discarded shells from shellfish consumed by the Native people of years past. A little while after we passed the midden beach we made our way through a narrow passage with several rapids. The passage opened out into a lagoon-type area and we explored two of the three inlets we found there before we decided to head back. We had to go back through the rapids at a certain time so that we would be able to fight the current and not get pushed back into the lagoon. We were aiming to go back around slack tide so the current would be less, however, the wind came up and proved to be a challenge. Katie gunned the engine and we made it through in one piece. I was in the front of the dinghy and thought it had been fine and an exciting trip, but once we were through, John and Katie both told me that at one point, they had looked to the side of the dinghy and we were at a stalemate with the current and wind.
Once safely returned to Change of Latitude, we played some card games during which, much to Katie and John's dismay, I whooped 'em! While we were playing cards, Dad was preparing his famous clam chowder. Every summer Dad makes his clam chowder and every summer it's a little bit different. He doesn't work from a recipe, just works with what he has. It turned out great this year and we paired it with some white wine and artisan asiago cheese bread that Mom had picked up in Port McNeil. I don't really eat any sort of seafood and was thinking I'd just have a PB & J sandwich but Dad was kind enough to make me my own special pot with no clams in it! We almost had a problem when the can opener broke and couldn't open the canned potatoes, but John saved the day with a Leatherman tool he had brought aboard and Katie's ingenious idea of poking holes all the way around the lid of the can. It was brilliant!
We were all full from Dad's great dinner when he and John decided to go out and set the crab pots. For bait they decided to use some cut up rockfish that Dad and Katie had caught prior to our arrival. Dad made a comment about how he had to "go cut a fish in half" and Katie asked him if that was a euphemism for taking a poop. Lol. What can I say? We are a crass crowd. After about 500 jokes referring to "cutting a fish in half," John and Dad finally went out. They returned confident that they had each chosen a perfect place for catching the crab. We shall see who picked the best spot tomorrow, when hopefully, we will have many crabs aboard Change of Latitude (and I mean crustaceans, not people!).
As of right now, we are making some Hazelnut coffee (which Dad refers to as frou-frou coffee) and gearing up to beat each other to a pulp in some sort of card or board game. This is how it is with us, everyone always wants to win, and not by a small margin, we have to CRUSH the opposition! More fun and exciting times to come, I am sure!
Two big old gnarly guys
07/25/2010, Port McNeil BC
Here is the world famous, world's largest burl. The calling card of Port McNeil!! I just had to find it!
Debbie, Sarah, and John Arrive
07/25/2010, Port McNeil BC
The photo above is our marina at Port McNeil, where we are today.
Today is the day that Debbie, Sarah, and John arrive to join us on our journey. They will fly from Vancouver to the small airport at Port Hardy, then take a local taxi (always an exciting, tour guide like adventure) down to Port McNeil.
We got up and I did initial exploratory work on the laundry. I discovered that it took Loonies (the Canadian dollar coin) and I only had a few. A sign said that the feul dock, back near our boat, had change so I retraced my steps. Steve, the young guy who seems to run much of Port McNeil, including the fuel dock, marina, and Laundromat, exchanged a role of Loonies for me. I returned to the laundromat and next tried to obtain a small box of soap for a coin machine. After multiple failures, a thoughtful woman came up and said she was unable to work the machine, too, and had to walk up to the supermarket to obtain soap. I took another hike, this time to the grocery store to pick up some laundry soap and Bounce. ON my way back to the laundromat, I stopped in at the sporting goods store and picked up a couple of extra charts for the Broughtons, where we were headed. Our main chartplotter was not providing detailed information as far north as we were. We really needed a new chip with new charts but this was not available here. On the boat, I have two laptops, each with full Canadian Raster charts for all of the locations we were going to so there was no problem. Having paper charts is always a bit more secure, however, in case anything happened to both laptops. Now we were set. I headed back to the laudromat. Katie arrived and I split my Loonies and my soap. We both sat down to use the free wifi that was advertised but it seemed not to work. So, another hike down to the fuel dock to see if Steve could reset the router. He did and we were happy as clams, working away online.
When the clothes were done, we packed them up and headed back to the boat. Katie's back was bothering her so she rested a bit and I started cleaning up the forward berth, where I had been staying, getting it ready for Sarah and John. First though, I decided to try out the shower. It worked awesome and I felt so much better that I set to work with a vengeance. I packed up my things and stored them in the aft stateroom, where Katie and Debbie would be sleeping. (I would be sleeping in the main cabin on the couch.) Then, I did a double toilet bowl cleaning, both forward and aft heads, and got both heads smelling fresh and looking spotless.
Then I made my way to the aft deck and filled up all of the water tanks, preparing for our departure the next day.
By this time Katie and I were hungry so I fixed lunch and then set to work getting the salt of the railings and windows and generally cleaning the exterior. The windows ended up really clean and so were all the metal and teak railings. The boat was really looking good.
Then, I set to work getting all of the dishes cleaned, the counters spotless and the floors vacuumed. Gosh the boat was looking good!! Katie and I celebrated our success with a cold beer and a brief break.
We also celebrated our portion of a wonderful trip with dinner out at Sportsman's Steakhouse, the more chi-chi restaurant in town. We had their famous calamari then Katie ordered lasagna and I had a Greek dinner with lamb, shrimp, and chicken along with a Greek salad and pita bread. Both of us were pretty full and headed back to the boat. Gosh, it looked spotless and nice!!!
I had one last chore, I needed to run the garbage up to the trash container. As I was headed up the dock, Debbie, Sarah, and John arrived and I took them down to the boat. We stayed up late getting caught up on things. I made plans to pick up a few more things at the grocery store and see if I could locate the World's Largest Burl, a special memorial near Port McNeil. A burl, is a gnarly growth that you find at the base of some trees in the northwest. In California, in the 70's and 80's you would often find them made into tables. The grain is really exceptional. The Port McNeil Burl is reportedly to be the largest in the world and as a local cultural attraction, I wanted to make certain that I had seen it. It also sounded like a great adventure. I will post a photo if I can locate it.
Port McNeil/Getting Ready For Everyone Else
Don/30 knots of wind
07/24/2010, Port McNeil BC
Back to Port McNeil
I told Katie, the night before that I was going fishing very early, just to make sure and check out prospects on all sides of the island. I planned to head out the west side and fish around the lower half, coming back to our anchorage from the East. Perhaps the salmon were down on that part of the island.
It is important to always make plans for safety, when out fishing in Rubber Ducky. We always take a portable VHF and now we have a waterproof safety bag with flares and other safety gear. We also set a time to communicate by VHF and a time to return. Since VHF radio is line of sight, often that does not work when you are fishing on the other side of an island. It is important to set a time to return, as well. I planned to be back at 9:30, no later. In this case, we decided that if I was in trouble and could not contact Katie that I would contact some of the boats in the area, with a more direct line of sight radio access. Katie would then contact Commox Coast Guard on channel 16 after 9:30 and we could link up that way.
I took off about 7 am to go fishing. Boy was I excited!! I knew the big boys were down on the southern end of the island. I started trolling and picked up a nice black cod. As I was re-rigging my line, a whale started spouting out in the straits, about a half mile out. It was a humpback, feeding on herring. Where there are herring, there are salmon. I got even more excited. Alas, however, my salmon was not to be. I caught several more rockfish but no salmon. I did discover a small cabin on the west side of the island, though. No one was there, but it looked like a nice small place out in the wilderness. It was the only sign of civilization we saw on our stay. No one was home.
On the way back in, I picked up the crab pots. No luck there, either. We are concluding that there is not a lot of life here in the Walker Group. It is a great place to spend a night before heading across the straights, but not necessarily a great place to catch fish or crab.
We picked up our anchor about 10 am, taking huge amounts of kelp off the anchor and chain. There were tons!! We headed out and back to Port McNeil. As we left, Katie pointed out that a large cruise ship was coming up fast off our stern. Thank goodness, she noticed! I headed to the east to stay out of its way. The winds gradually increased on our way back, to 20 knots and were still rising when we landed to take on fuel at the fuel dock in Port McNeil. It was blowing pretty good.
After filling up, we headed over to our berth, a downwind approach in 25 knots of wind. Fortunately, we made a great landing. I had to really juice up the engines in reverse to slow us down but all was well and we tied up securely.
Fist things, first, right? Katie and I headed up to the liquor store. Katie pointed out that it was 3 pm on Saturday and they would be closing for the weekend. We picked up some wine and some beer to restock the boat for the new arrivals. We also noticed the laundry place and the hours it is open - a task for tomorrow.
Then, I made another hike up to city center (a small smile here since it is a very small city center) to get groceries. Katie had made a wonderful list but, to me, a Canadian grocery store is unfamiliar territory. I could not find things right away and had to go through the aisles three times to get everything. (I did manage to find the ice cream bar, though, right away and had a double dip in a waffle cone so I did not go hungry on my foraging expedition.)
Katie packed all the groceries away for us and then we headed up to Gus' for dinner. I had fish and chips and Katie had nachos. Just like every time I eat with Katie, her choice looked so much better than mine. I should have just ordered what she did, like I have been doing on this trip. Maybe this will teach me!
We decided not to go to Clash of the Titans at the movie theatre tonight. Port McNeil has a small place in the strip mall that, on only some nights, shows old movies and serves free popcorn. It is quite a hoot! Once we saw 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea there. A fun time!!
We headed back to the boat and I worked some more on my poetry. Then, we made plans for cleaning and preparing for everyone's arrival tomorrow. It will be a busy day!
Still Seeking Mr. Salmon/Yahtzee
07/23/2010, The Walker Group Islands
The winds were light and variable today. It looked like a perfect day for salmon fishing, especially on the windward side that we had not been able to fish yesterday. So, first thing in the morning we set out on a fishing trip up the west side of Kent Island. It looked so very fishy. And yet all we caught were three rockfish - no salmon. We even fished the small island off the top of the island, the first place salmon would land, coming in from the ocean. No luck, even there. So we came back with only bait for the crab pots.
When we got back we had lunch and a beer and relaxed a bit. Yesterday, our satellite TV was not coming in. This is what happened in Vancouver over the New Year holiday. It was a mystery. I tried it again today and voila! It came in fine. I noticed that our boat was turned in a different direction. Then I recalled what another Grand Banks owner told us at this spring's Rondevous - that it would always work unless your mast blocked access to the satellite which is about 189 degrees (nearly due South). Yesterday, that was the situation. Today, with the variable winds, the boat lay in a different direction so the signal was not blocked. Good to know.
Afterwards, we (Well, maybe only me!) took a nap and relaxed. Boy, that felt good!! I was so inspired I started to write some poetry, a new poem called "Pass it on." I will share it when it is done. Actually, my poetry is never "done" since I often go back and keep revising things. I revise to learn how to write better poems. I learn a lot by thinking about what sounds better and learning about language patterns. I enjoy it. I will try to share one of my poems, a favorite, and the photo that goes with it. Each poem has a photo. I am trying to put together a collection of poems and photography, to capture the meaning of these trips in the Northwest to me.
In the late afternoon, I set the crab pots, just to see what was around. It is so rocky here, it does not look like good Dungeoness crab country but you never know. I have been surprised before. I used the fish we caught earlier for bait. I set one in the cove where we are anchored and one outside on the east side of the island.
That evening we started getting ready to head back to Port McNeil. Katie made the excellent suggestion that we get there a day early since we had so much to do to prepare for the arrival of Debbie, Sarah, and John - laundry, shopping, buying more wine at the liquor store, picking up more bandages for our medical kit, and cleaning the boat up, especially washing the salt off.
We ended the day with Katie introducing me to Yahtzee. I kind of liked that game. But, as hard as she tried to give me hints and good strategies, I got creamed: 256 - 189 and 247 - 225. There is always next time, my friend!!!! I am studying up at online sites. ;-)
Katie at the helm of Rubber Ducky
Don/30 knots of wind
Here we are heading out, with Change of lLatitude in the background, at anchor.
Fishing/Godfather I and II
07/22/2010, The Walker Group Islands
Our first day at the cove in the Walker Island Group. We are enjoying this anchorage so very much. It is tight, just enough for three boats anchored separately, unless some are stern tied. It faces Northwest so winds can come down it, though. The island is not high to block out all wind. Still, it has good holding with a sand and mud bottom and it is only 16-20 feet deep. We have about 120 feet of chain out (6-1 scope) and our anchor bridle on. In the Northwest, chain is mandatory given both the depths that are common and the rocks that abound. (This anchorage is uncommonly shallow. More typical is 40-60 feet of water.)
What is a bridle? A bridle has a metal fitting that attaches to your anchor chain. It is connected to lines that each go through a front hawser and attach to the port and starboard bow cleats. Thus, the pressure of the anchor chain is taken up by the bridle, rather than by the winch and capstan. It is a much more secure way to anchor. An anchor bridle also accomplishes another important trick --- it reduces the angle with which your boat is connected to your anchor, thus improving your anchor's holding ability. Once you fasten the bridle to your anchor chain, and secure it to your bow cleats, you let out chain until the bridle is taking all of the pressure of the anchor. This drops it about 10 feet under the surface of the water. So, in our 16 feet of water, it is only about 6 feet off the bottom. That increases the holding power of your chair. With 120 feet of chain out, the bridle, in effect, increases the scope from 6-1 to 20-1. Change of Latitude will be perfectly secure in a storm with that type of scope on the anchor chain.
Today was a day to go fishing so I put on my lucky fishing t-shirt that Katie gave me some time ago. It is from the University of Maryland and says, "Fear the Turtle." (A turtle is their mascot.) Last year, I caught my summer salmon with it when Katie and I went fishing near Foggy Bay, Alaska, so I figure it must be lucky.
We loaded 3 rods and reels, tackle box, frozen herring, and salmon net and took off in "Rubber Ducky," our 11 ½ foot Nuvorania ridgid inflatable boat (RIB) with a 25 hp Yamaha 4 cycle engine. It is the best fishing inflatable per foot that I have seen. We headed out to the leeward side of the island, to reduce the amount of waves and trolled north along the east side of Kent Island. There was a lot of kelp near shore so we trolled as close to the kelp as we dared. Katie thought the kelp made for a perfect home for sea otters and we were both surprised not to see any. With the rocky shores, kelp, and swells, it reminded us of Monterey, California. We picked up a black cod almost immediately and thought it was going to be a very fishy day. Alas, that was not to be. We fished all the way to the end of Kent Island without another strike. We were using herring, trolled slowly behind flashers, with 6 oz trolling sinkers. It was the perfect combo for salmon in these parts. Nada. The wind and waves increased as we got to the end of the island. Just about then, Katie noticed that the dinghy was feeling underinflated. She was getting wet in front. We quickly pulled into a cove and secured the boat in a kelp bed. We got out the foot pump and added a bit of air to the boat. Then, we went on our way back out to the East side of the island, again, and trolled our way home. Nothing else hit the entire way home. Bummer!! It was not our day for salmon.
On the way into the cove, we noticed that another boat had anchored, a Nordic Tug about 40 feet long, Peacemaker. We stopped and chatted with a retired police officer from Carmel, CA and his small white dog. He was on his way north, to Alaska for the summer. He keeps his boat in Campbell River, BC but lives in California.
When we got back to our boat, we had lunch and took a short rest. Then, I started cutting up the black cod we caught to use for bait in our crab pots. Just as I cut its head off, a gust of wind came up, my wonderful Tilley hat blew off and, as I tried to grab it, the a very sharp fillet knife in my hand slipped and sliced a finger on my right hand. I did not even notice that problem, I was so focused on my hat, floating away. I had to run inside to get the keys, start up Rubber Ducky and head across the cove to retrieve it before it sank. Luckily I got it just in time. Then I noticed the blood all over the boat. I was bleeding pretty badly so I washed my hand in salty sea water and got back to the boat where I put a compress on it. Then, I cleaned it up with our first aid kit and put on a butterfly bandage to hold the skin together. It seemed to stop the bleeding and looked pretty professional. I hate cuts. I seem to get them often while boating and they always turn into low grade infections, with swelling an some discomfort. They get in the way of a great boating trip with cribbing and fishing. I always have to clean them each night an morning so they the infections do not get out of control. Our new first aid kit does not contain Bacitracin which seems to work best for me. I will need to get some on our return to Port McNeil.
After that adventure, I did not even put out the crab pots. Instead, Katie and I watched Godfather II and then Godfather I. I had never seen them. I really enjoyed the movies and especially spending time with Katie. Oh so many killings, though!!
The rugged terrain
Don/30 knots of wind
You can see, from this island how beautifully rugged the terrain is here. It reminded us of Monterey, CA, minus the multi-million dollar houses!